Beyond the Saga Over Gaga

First, allow me to clarify that I am not and never was a fan of Lady Gaga. I find her public persona and antics overpower her singing, and even, entertaining qualities. However, I’m not her hater either so, Little Monsters, no need to assassinate me.

Unless you have been living under some pre-civilization rock this week, you’ll hear about the brouhaha surrounding the much-awaited, sold-out-in-mere-hours, Jakarta concert of Lady Gaga. Slated for June 3rd in downtown GBK Stadium, it will be her first concert in Indonesia and, at 52,000 seats, the largest leg on the current Asian tour.

So much at stake. You betcha.

FPI, notoriously fancies itself as a defender of Islam, raised objections last week, which have ranged from Gaga’s sexy getups, her calling her fans “little monsters”, her supposed worship over Lucifer, to her causing the recent Sukhoi jet crash outside Jakarta. I pray none of the victims’ families heard that last hurtful bit.

The fact that there are countless dangdut singers in skimpier clothes gyrating obscenely on seedy stages across Indonesia on a weekly basis, or how Gaga’s fans actually adore the moniker, didn’t matter to FPI. That the outfit Gaga famously modeled on the cover of an international fashion magazine was actually designed by Indonesia’s own rising designer, Tex Saverio, didn’t matter either.

In democracy, everyone, including FPI, is entitled to voicing their opinions, however misguided or misleading. What democracy forbids is one forcing its opinions on others, especially by violence. Hence the portion of taxpayers’ money to keep police on payroll in order to enforce law and order, and uphold democracy.

What bugs me and should bother every Indonesian, Gaga fan or not, is that Polri has been so lenient towards FPI and similar groups to the point that, as countless witnesses over the years would say, actually providing more protection to the perpetrators than to the very citizens whose worship or commercial properties were ransacked and whose physiques were harmed. Just look up the Wikipedia for FPI’s long, bloody list of violence circa 1998 and matched it with victims’ accounts on media.

What should also bother us is FPI’s recent graduation from religious fundamentalism to plain fascism. There was the airing case of religiously-themed movie “?” on a private TV station. Irshad Manji, a Canada-based Islam reformist, suffered attacks during public book discussions across Java, while her Indonesia’s book tour four years ago went peaceful. The fact that many Muslims willingly flocked to Manji’s book discussions, some of whom eventually got punched by raging hardliners, didn’t faze Polri. Suddenly now hardliners not only tell us which God to worship and how, but also dictate what movie to watch, what book to read, and which music to listen.

As if the on-going petitions and legal charges from public meant nothing, Polri kept siding with hardliners, stating Lady Gaga unsuitable to Indonesian culture. I had no idea that Polri had branched out from public safety to art and culture.

Republic of Indonesia is secular by Constitution and, until recently, happily provided venues for Beyonce and Erykah Badu when denied entrance by Malaysia’s ulema council for archaic reasons. But these days, I ask, where are Pancasila and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika?

I refuse to believe that the trained and modernly-armed Polri, whose special unit Densus 88 has gloriously captured real terrorists, can be terrified of some baton-wielding, helmeted, band of white-uniformed hoodlums. I’m getting more inclined to buy the long-speculated theory of FPI origin which, compared to other scenarios floating around, is easier to deduce and accept. Polri stays off, maybe because it can.

Do yourself a favor. Google ‘Pamswakarsa’ or witness these hardliners on action as I have. Those rage-filled eyes, punch-ready hands, kick-ready limbs, profanity-laden shouts (interchangeably with God’s most sacred name), honestly, where’s the Divinity in them? Take off their cloaks and turbans, and you’ll see common thugs. As a Muslim I’m insulted that hired brutes have the nerve to hijack my religion’s name and claim to speak on its behalf.

Now look at the latest development on Gaga’s concert. The official Indonesia fans club tweeted of a new agreement reached between the local concert organizer, Polri, MUI, and FPI, in which the organizer agreed on ‘certain’ terms and conditions. 52,000 of Gaga’s fans may never know, or particularly care, of those extra terms, yet they should never forget that, concert or not comes June 3rd, FPI has already won over them, with Polri’s full endorsement. The rest of you non-Gaga fans should note that whatever public engagement you want to hold in the future, be it university debate, painting auction, sports match, or your nephew’s circumcision rituals, may need FPI’s ‘agreement’ beyond official permits.

My fellow Indonesians, urbanites and countryfolks alike, is it what we signed up and paid taxes for? Are 242 million of us, from hundreds of native groups across 17,000 islands, to allow much fewer troublemakers trampling over Constitution and squandering 67 years of independence?

Get off the couch, get out there. Speak up in real life. Join hands, get organized. Push aside your silly differences and petty arguments for now. There is a much bigger, more critical, fight at hand. Much farther beyond Gaga, this is about the shared lives in Indonesia Raya, for which we all have divine human rights to go ga-ga about. While there remains, mind you, an Indonesia Raya.

As published:

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